Tolliver leads Springfield past rival Wayne as Wildcats win outright GWOC title

On the first play of the game against Wayne on Friday night, Springfield High School senior running back Jeff Tolliver returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown but it was called back due to a penalty.

“I just saw a hole and I had to take it all the way,” he said. “I didn’t see the flag until after I scored. It was the second time that’s happened to me this season.”

Despite the penalty, it was a sign of things to come. Tolliver rushed for three touchdowns as the Wildcats beat rival Wayne 38-13 at Heidkamp Stadium.

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“It’s Wayne and Springfield, it’s going to be a heavyweight battle,” said Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass. “It was going to be nip-and-tuck all the way through and our guys did a great job of persevering and overcoming adversity. They didn’t give up, didn’t break. When we needed to make plays, we made them.”

Springfield (8-1, 4-0) clinched its first outright Greater Western Ohio Conference American Division championship since the schools merged in 2008. Springfield shared division titles in 2010 and 2018.

“I’m happy for our kids, happy for the community of Springfield,” Douglass said. “This is why we talk about ‘Remember the moment.’ You’ve got to cherish and remember these opportunities when they come like this because they don’t come often.”

Tolliver rushed for 176 yards on nine carries and scored on rushes of 80, 11 and 59 yards. It was the third time in the last four weeks Tolliver has rushed for three touchdowns in a game .

Running back Tay’veon Smoot rushed for two touchdowns and Te’Sean Smoot also scored.

Te’Sean Smoot scored on a 1-yard run and Tolliver scored on an 80-yard run to give Springfield a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. Wayne threatened in the second quarter, moving inside the Wildcats’ 10-yard line three times, but the possessions ended in a missed field goal, turnover on downs and a fumble.

“They’re a great team, they did a great job and they took advantage of the opportunities when they had them,” said Warriors coach Roosevelt Mukes. “Our hats off to them. They did a great job. They’ll represent us well in the playoffs.”

Wayne’s Cam Fancher caught a touchdown pass and Devin Nelson rushed for a score as the Warriors fell to 3-6 and 2-2 in the division. Wayne hosts Northmont in the regular season finale next Friday.

Springfield extended its lead to 25-7 after three quarters. The Warriors made it 25-13 on a touchdown pass from RJ Mukes to Fancher in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t pull any closer.

“They continued to fight, we just have to take advantage of opportunities when we get them,” Mukes said. “Being young like that, you’ve got to take advantage. We had the ball three times in the first half in the red zone and couldn’t capitalize. We’ve got to get points. If we get points, it’s a different game.”

Before the game, Wayne honored its 2019 Hall of Fame Class, which included former Dallas Cowboy Mike Mickens, Tony Bennett, Ryan Kauppila, Ashley Arnold, Tiffani Foster, Leroy Meyer and former longtime assistant football coaches Pat Wood and Mike Garinger.

Springfield entered the game having clinched a playoff berth in the Division I, Region 2. With the win, the Wildcats will likely earn a first-round home game in the regional quarterfinals. The Wildcats host D-III fourth-ranked Trotwood-Madison (7-2) in the regular season finale. The Rams lost to Springboro 28-25 in Week 9.

“We’ve got to keep grinding and get ready for next week,” Tolliver said. “We’ve got to stay focused.”

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